New Delhi/Lucknow: Thirtyfive –year-old Ranjita Devi was diagnosed with breast cancer in Uttar Pradesh’s Sant Kabir Nagar in 2021 but her farmer husband had limited resources for treatment. The poor family got a helping hand from local social worker Mr Sandeep Kumar who, being a childhood cancer survivor himself, realised the importance of early consultation, diagnosis and treatment.
In March this year, Ranjita returned home after overcoming cancer, thanks to the financial assistance and donations arranged by Mr Kumar and help from doctors of Tata Hospital in Banaras.
“At one stage, I thought I would never be able to survive,” recalls Ranjita Devi, who benefitted from the online consultation facilitated by DigiSwasthya Foundation. This NGO provides accessible and affordable healthcare across rural India by leveraging technology. Video consultations with specialist doctors from tier 1 cities proved handy not only for Ranjita but dozens of others during the pandemic.
The experience gained by Mr Kumar, a masters in social work, sociology and development management, while saving lives during the pandemic and bridging the gap between patients and doctors took an institutional shape when he launched a phygital – physical plus digital – telemedicine centre in July 2020.
Mr Kumar’s initiative, in which he later got help from a Delhi-based doctor, Dr Pallabi Roy, has five phygital telemedicine centres where patients walk in and the DigiSwasthya team offers online consultations with doctors, for nominal fees ranging from Rs 50 – Rs 250.
“We have centres in Sant Kabir Nagar in UP, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Tekawadi in Pune and Sahebganj, Muzaffarpur in Bihar,” explains Mr Kumar, underlining the on-going efforts to offer pan-India healthcare facilities to the marginalised sections with focus on awareness, accessibility and affordability.
Mr Kumar said he started DigiSwasthya with his own savings of Rs four lakh but today it has been registered as a section 8 and not-for-profit organisation and authorised to collect donations.
Dr Pallabi Roy, an MBA, said that in the past two years, their digital referral pathway has arranged over 6,000 consultations, mostly for rural residents who have little access to specialists doctors. She said DigiSwasthya has now been incubated under AIC-RMP which is supported by Atal Innovation Mission and NITI Ayog.
“DigiSwasthya Foundation has recently bagged the SARTHI (Strengthening and Amplifying Resilience Through Innovations) Champion Award for building resilience in the new normal. A grant of ten thousand USD was awarded to us for our work in disaster risk reduction and pandemic preparedness. It was conferred by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) at the United Nation’s Seventh Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GP2022) held between 23 May – 28 May 2022 at Bali, Indonesia,” said Dr Roy, who was selected among top 10 organisations to represent India.